Uniting Front-End Apps With Back-End Systems

Oracle and Siebel Systems integrate E-business applications tools for accessing CAD files and other highly technical product data.
Computer-aided design files and other highly technical product data are not usually part of the typical front-office application sold by software vendors like Oracle or Siebel Systems Inc. Yet, both companies are extending their product suites to deliver over the Internet product information that is more valuable to engineers than sales or marketing staff.

Oracle released Oracle CADView-3D Tuesday at its user conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Siebel has partnered with Parametric Technology Corp. to integrate the latter company's online collaborative design software with Siebel's E-business applications.

The new capabilities are part of a movement among front-office application vendors to create a Web-based front end for anyone associated with an enterprise, including suppliers, partners, customers, and engineers. Of course, personalization and security would be necessary to ensure that people see only the data applicable to their jobs. "What we're seeing is a convergence of a lot of the Web front-end applications with back-end enterprise systems," says Albert Pang, analyst for research firm International Data Corp. "This encapsulates the idea of a unified commerce view and with the visualization process that a company needs to deliver to end customers and others."

Siebel and Parametric have partnered to integrate the latter's Windchill software, which stores all product data related to design projects, with Siebel's E-business applications. The intent is to give sales, marketing, and service professionals access to CAD files, manufacturing instructions, test procedures, and other product-centric documents. Oracle CADView-3D, based on technology acquired in October through Assentive Solutions Inc., is billed as a collaborative environment for employees across a company's supply chain to view and mark-up CAD models. The software is an extension of Oracle's Product Development Exchange application.

AMR Research analyst Kevin O'Marah says Oracle CADView is a "straightforward" approach for product teams to look at CAD files from different locations. "It's a technology that works and addresses a problem," he says. However, the software does not compete with Windchill, which provides visualization plus a full product-data-management system for the design process. "CADView is a piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing," O'Marah says.

On the other hand, Siebel and Parametric's products involve integration, which can add to the cost of deployment. For example, AMR Research said in a report in October that software licenses, including maintenance, for customer-relationship management software, Siebel's core product, represents 20% to 24% of the initial costs. Consulting and integration account for the rest, with integration accounting for 30% to 50% of the total cost of the project.

Other new products announced Tuesday at Oracle AppsWorld include Partners Online, software for managing business with channel partners; Customer Online for consolidating and managing customer data; and Enterprise Asset Management for tracking and managing maintenance of equipment and facilities.

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